Compostable Campus: A Comprehensive Food Waste Recovery Plan for The Ohio State University

The saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is true when it comes to food waste. At Ohio State, one student’s leftover sandwich could someday be used in university landscaping as valuable fertilizer. These riches could also include carbon credits, research opportunities, and significant cost avoidance for the university. The benefits of food waste diversion at The Ohio State University are numerous and should be explored.

We researched the possibility of for Ohio State to expand its new on-campus food waste diversion and composting system. This system collects food waste, utilizes compostable disposable food containers, and processes these products by turning them in to beneficial compost. Colleges across the country are practicing responsible food waste diversion efforts. If we take the food waste measures that Ohio State currently employs, and add the technology, infrastructure, and organization, OSU could have its own food waste recovery system.

We  developed a plan that could be economically and physically feasible on our campus. By encouraging students, faculty, and staff to sort their own waste, Ohio State could capture a large percentage of the 2,400 tons of food waste generated on campus annually. Using compostable service-ware, instead of plastic and foam, may increase the costs of some items but most compostable products would actually be lower than what Ohio State is currently using. Finally, by building an on-campus composting facility, Ohio State could avoid over $100,000 in landfill tipping fees annually, create new academic programs and research opportunities, and move closer to its goals of carbon neutrality.

We believe Ohio State is missing out on a valuable resource by not recovering more of its food waste. Let’s turn this trash into treasure and start reaping the rewards!

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